ODU’s first recruiting class bids farewell (but not adieu if they have anything to say about it)
Has it really been four years?
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Old Dominion’s first football team was practicing on Powhatan Field, borrowing the facility while its own field was being constructed. They were really babies at the time, football players who had been pretty good at the high school level and wanted to see what they could do at the college level.
They signed on with a program that was starting from scratch. Well, some of them signed on.
Some of them walked on, determined to play college football, scholarship or no scholarship.
Fred Credle was one of those walk-ons.
For the last four falls, Credle paid his way -- and his body paid the price -- to play Division I college football. Credle isn’t much bigger than me, and I’m not very big. I can only imagine the abuse his 5-foot-11, 170-pound body has taken over the last four seasons.
He arrived at ODU from nearby Deep Creek High in Chesapeake as part of the quarterbacking corps, a left-hander who threw a wobbly spiral but nonetheless played with spirit. He still wears a quarterback’s number – No. 16 – but these days his job is to stop the other team’s quarterback, whether he’s rushing the passer or trying to intercept a pass.
Over the weekend when the Monarchs played at Georgia State, Credle walked to midfield for the coin toss as one of ODU’s four captains. There are special moments in a person’s life, and then there are the moments that ingrain themselves in the memory banks. Credle is fairly certain he won’t forget that moment.
“To be able to walk out there with Craig Wilkins and Chris Burnette, two of the guys I was there with at our first practice over four years ago, it was very special for me,” Credle said. “I think anybody who is a walk-on has those moments of doubt as to whether what you’re doing is worth it all. I had my moments, usually when we were doing conditioning drills in the cold and the rain in the middle of winter. Those other guys, they were on scholarships. Me? I was scrambling by on Pell Grants, knowing I was going to have some college debt when it was all over.”
And yet, he persevered. There were a couple reasons he stuck with it, the main one being, “I’m not a quitter and never have been.”
There’s also the fact that he’ll be the first college graduate in his family. And then there’s his younger brother, eighth-grader Tarell, who “looks up to me. I feel I have to set an example of what you should be and how you should act.”
On a team full of mannerly young men, Credle has been at the top of the class. In my time as beat reporter for The Virginian-Pilot, I made it a habit to make practices and besides the members of the team and staff, there’s little doubt I’ve been to more practices than anyone. When I was there, nobody was more mannerly than Credle, who always offered a firm handshake and a welcoming “How are you, Mr. Radford?”
“He is the epitome of a hard worker and it’s going to carry him far in life,”
Burnette said. “Looking back on that first day we practiced together in 2008, there were about 20 scholarship players that day and about 70 walk-ons. Now there are about 15 of those guys who are still here…and Fred’s one of them.”
Credle will head into Saturday’s game against William and Mary with 44 career tackles. That might seems like a blip to some, but that’s 44 more than he would have had if he’d hung up the cleats after that first red-shirt season. By the way, Credle is on scholarship this year. Coach Bobby Wilder put him on partial scholarship last spring and upped it to a full ride for Credle’s final campaign.
“When I announced to the team last week that Fred would be our honorary captain at the Georgia State game, what followed was one of the biggest cheers I’ve ever heard in that room,” Wilder said. “Everybody likes Fred. And he’s made contributions to this program in more ways than just football. His benefit goes beyond the field. He’s been a great teammate. And when we’ve worked with the Special Olympics or the Boys and Girls Club or just about any community function, Fred’s always been there.”
Even if was just for a year, Credle earned every bit of that scholarship.
“You know, I was very happy when coach Wilder told me,” Credle said. “But I was even happier when I told my parents. They’d stuck by me through all of this. When it looked like I wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time they asked me if I wanted to transfer. The asked if I was happy. They told me that if I didn’t want to play, I didn’t have to play.
“I have no regrets. I’m still here, playing and living.”
After beginning his college academic career as an engineering major, Credle quickly switched to communications. He would like to work in public relations and plans to continue his education, chasing an MBA degree.
“I want to run a business and I want to know how to manage money,” Credle said.
For the moment, Credle wants to play more football, and he wants to play more at Foreman Field. The Monarchs will enter Saturday’s game with an 8-1 record and a No. 4 national ranking. If they can win out against William and Mary on Saturday and then at James Madison on Nov. 17, the Monarchs should land a bye and then a home game in the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
And that would mean one more game at Foreman Field for Credle … and his teammates.
So Who Else will be honored on Senior Day? Fourteen others will be honored along with Credle and only one of them -- safety Carvin Powell -- is a true senior. The others were there with Credle and red-shirted in 2008 to begin their careers: defensive end Alex Arain, wide receiver Nick Mayers, safety Devon Simmons, linebacker Craig Wilkins, punter Jonathan Plisco, defensive end B.J. McLaughlin, defensive end Michael Colbert, defensive tackle Erik Saylor, offensive tackle Robbie Duncan, offensive guard Brandon Carr, defensive tackle Kai Blanco, wide receiver Chris Lovitt and Burnette.
There was one other current member of the Monarchs who was on that practice field that first day: defensive back T.J. Cowart. But Cowart was granted an extra year of eligibility when he broke his wrist last season.